The iconic soul label Stax Records celebrates its 60th anniversary honoring historic Soulsville, USA in Memphis with a year’s worth of new hit compilations. Today’s Top Tune joins in on the festivities as we turn to a full week’s worth of fantastic songs you’ll recognize, including tracks by Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas.
Monday, Sept 11
In 1971 Isaac Hayes wrote and recorded a song that would change his life. The Theme from Shaft catapulted the artist to international stardom and garnered him the honor of an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Hayes also became the first African-American to win that honor as well as being the first recipient to have both written and performed the winning song. In fact, Hayes had only agreed to write the song after one of the producers consented to give him an audition for the lead role. Since then the Theme from Shaft has become one of the most recognizable theme songs in cinema history.
Tuesday, Sept 12
Originally recorded by the Gospel family band The Staple Singers back in 1972, I’ll Take You There became a hit as Mavis Staples invited listeners to a call-and-response chorus and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Written by Stax co-founder Al Bell and backed by the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, it became one of the greatest songs of all time, and topped the charts again in 1991 when Salt-N-Pepa sampled it.
Wednesday, Sept 13
An architect of the Stax sound, William Bell penned many classics, including You Don’t Miss Your Water and Born under a Bad Sign. He also wrote the poignant Tribute to a King, a farewell to Otis Redding, and the R& B hit that we focus on today, I Forgot to Be Your Lover.
Thursday, Sept 14
Mr. Pitiful, penned by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper guitarist of the Stax Records house band, was written in response to a radio deejay who thought Otis Redding sounded pitiful when recording ballads. The idea came to Cropper in the shower. Recorded in 10 minutes and initially released as a B-side, it was later the most successful song on the 1965 album The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads.
Friday, Sept 15
Crowned the Queen of Memphis Soul, Carla Thomas came to fame via Stax Records in the 60s. One of her big hits, B-A-B-Y, climbed the charts in 1966. The song was co-written by Isaac Hayes and the Grammy-winning songwriter David Porter. It was recently featured in the 2017 film Baby Driver.